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Susquehanna Life

Cooking at Home: Mom’s Raw Tomato Sauce with Pasta

By Peterson Toscano

Growing up, my parents ran an Italian-American restaurant in the Catskills. My mom served the typical meal you get at most Italian restaurants—chicken parmesan, lasagna and spaghetti with meatballs. At home, she prepared Italian dishes she assumed the public would not like—the working-class foods my parents ate as first-generation Italian-Americans in a crowded New York City apartment with too many mouths to feed. 

A few years ago surprise visitors stop by just as I put this dish on the table. I invited them to join me with an apology, “I don’t have anything too fancy, I’m afraid.” They dug in, and lost their minds. “This is amazing! I never had this before. What is it called?” My family considered it such a simple, lowly dish, we didn’t even have a name for it. I since have served it to other guests who enjoyed it with equal zeal. I decided it is time to give the dish a name, and to share it with the world.

Mom’s Raw Tomato Sauce with Pasta


  • 8 large, juicy, farm-fresh tomatoes
  • 10-20 cloves of garlic, crushed in a garlic press or crushed and coarsely chopped 
  • 2 handfuls of fresh basil leaves, stems removed
  • 1 1/2 cups extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 T regular olive oil 
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 pound dried vermicelli (angel hair) or capellini pasta.  
  • Your favorite Pecorino Romano or Parmesan, freshly grated


Core and slice tomatoes into paper thin circles. 

In a tall glass casserole dish (round or square) cover the bottom with an overlapping layer of tomato slices.

Lay 1 basil leaf on each tomato, along with an equal amount of crushed garlic. 

Sprinkle with salt and pepper, to taste. 

Repeat layers of tomatoes, basil, garlic, salt and pepper, until only tomatoes remain.

Create the final layer with tomatoes.  

Pour extra virgin olive oil over the top so it seeps through all of the layers. 

Cover and let stand on a counter out of the sun for up to two hours. 

When it is nearly time to eat, transfer the tomato sauce to a large flat pasta bowl or other serving bowl. 

Heat to boiling a pot of water for pasta; add up to 2 T salt and 2 T olive oil. Add the pasta, stirring it occasionally so it doesn’t stick together. Vermicelli takes only 3 minutes to cook; capellini takes 4-5 minutes. Do NOT overcook.  

Drain pasta well in a colander, and immediately place it in the pasta bowl. Mix the pasta and sauce so the tomato slices break up and the sauce is equally distributed. Serve and eat immediately. Sprinkle liberally with your favorite freshly grated cheese. Serves 4.

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